The Singles Jukebox
Pulsating Surrealism



after a week's hiatus to allow the section editor to move house (BECAUSE HE HAS A LIFE) the Jukebox glides serenely back into view, to be greeted by the sight of Young Dro attempting to copyright slouching, TV On The Radio bringing their own beards, Shack finally discovering the song title they were born to come up with, and McFly dropping the stunning revelation that they would like to be making the love to Lindsay Lohan, because they are Young People. We also get to react to the shock UK success of Rogue Traders, having previously been rather underwhelmed by their Australian hit from earlier in the year. Cos we is the buzzzzzzz. First, though, Scottish singer-songwriter Paolo Nutini does marginally better than you'd expect him to do in the Jukebox. Marginally.


Paolo Nutini - Last Request
[3.00]

Hillary Brown: Apparently, Mr. Nutini mixes influences as diverse as the White Stripes and Ray Charles. Translated, this means “influences as diverse as Gavin DeGraw and James Blunt.”
[3]

Ian Mathers: It's sad, but as soon as you hear Nutini's voice—the very texture of it—you know exactly what you're in for. Another young, “sensitive,” “artistic” young man content to coast on a conventionally pretty voice and face and the kind of lyrics a computer could give you. The music is barely there, and barely noticeable when it is, but that's because this is the very laziest kind of post-James Blunt/Norah Jones slop.
[3]

Mike Atkinson: Oh, Paolo. I came not to praise you, but to dismiss you as this year’s James Blunt. And yet, while this year’s James Blunt you most certainly are—that half-strangled upper register alone!—something about this song has hooked me in against my will. Like “You’re Beautiful” before it, what seems at face value to be a bog-standard sappy love song reveals itself over time to contain something murkier at its core— and yet there’s something about Nutini’s desperate, self-abasing, borderline-creepy “give me one last shag before we split up” fucked-upness which is both believable and oddly compelling. If this was belted out by some low-rent diva in a Eurodance cover version, it would sound bloody fantastic.
[7]

Doug Robertson: In what was quite possibly the most hilarious sentence ever written, The Metro reported Mr. Nutini’s appearance at T in the Park by stating, apparently in all seriousness, that he’d lived up to his rock and roll reputation by walking on stage carrying a can of beer.
[2]


Freelance Hellraiser - You Can Cry All You Want
[3.83]

John M. Cunningham: Remember how Moby was once considered cutting-edge, like when he transformed the Twin Peaks theme into a rave anthem or even when he chopped up old blues and gospel records, but then he decided that he wasn't content to just sample other people's music and that he could in fact write shiny pop songs of his own, except the result was usually super-bland and filled with platitudes, and the electronic component was reduced to a cozy coffee-table ambience?
[3]

Adem Ali: This was very obviously put together with Summer in mind. It’s quite hard to pin-point what I like about this song, but I think that it has something to do with sounding a little like the work Fatboy Slim should be doing these days. Quite lovely, really.
[7]

Steve Mannion: After conquering the ‘mash-up’ galaxy in style, Freelance (or ‘Roy’ to his comrades) ended up touring with Paul McCartney and that influence has perhaps tinged this anthemic sermon—but perhaps not quite as much as the influence of Gary Lightbody. FH knows a thing or two about twiddling the right knobs at the right time but on the evidence of this and the rest of the album—like his predecessor Fatboy Slim—one fears his ‘hell-raising’ days may now be over.
[5]

Rodney J. Greene: Dressing undistinguished U2 universalism in a coat of fuzz bass and high tech flourishes doesn't change what it is.
[4]


McFly - Please Please
[4.57]

Mike Atkinson: OK, so for those of you out of the UK teenpop celeb-goss loop, here’s the backstory: In the touching belief that this will Break Them In The States, Just Like A Hard Day’s Night Or Something, McFly make rubbish new movie (Just My Luck), starring Lindsay Lohan. During filming, drummer Harry has alleged Saucy Fling with Lohan. Following said fling (hotly denied by Lohan’s “people”), the other three members of McFly “secretly” pen a rib-ticklingly lustful ode to Lohan (“Please please Lindsay please!”), as a Bit Of A Wind-Up Like, God You Should Have Seen His Face. Wot larks, eh! The result is a serviceably jolly piece of punky-power-pop fluff, whose nascent laddishness is augmented by some nifty bar-room/pub-rock piano fills along the way. Oh, and it’s for charity, and it’s bundled with an equally uncomplicated romp through Queen’s “Don’t Stop Me Now.”
[7]

Hillary Brown: We have passed the point of it merely being acceptable to like Huey Lewis again and entered the zone of actual Huey Lewis influence upon bands. I see now that the re-advent of very tight jeans is not only a fashion choice, but a signifier of piano-based rock songs that feature hopping about and are themselves influenced by Jerry Lee Lewis. A Lewisocracy, as it were. I, for one, somewhat welcome our new Lewis overlords.
[5]

Ian Mathers: Neutered “rock” music that uses the phrase “motion in the ocean” with a depressing lack of self-awareness and occasionally features a snide young man attempting to sound the slightest bit like Billie Joe Armstrong (John Lydon would be too much to hope for). In theory the idea of a boy band taking on the tropes of rock could make for good pop music, but McFly remain ever-tedious.
[2]

Doug Robertson: The world’s most slappable band return, demonstrating once again that they’re more irritating than sand in your socks and just as hard to get rid of. Look lads, we get it. You quite like 60’s pop. We understand, but can you at least try and do something that sounds even vaguely interesting or exciting?
[1]


Shack - Cup of Tea
[4.83]

John M. Cunningham: I just learned that Shack's album is called On the Corner of Miles and Gil, and since there's absolutely no discernible trace of Mssrs. Davis and Evans on this R.E.M.-ish jangly guitar ditty, I guess this is just another boring UK rock band fetishizing American jazz. Ho-hum.
[4]

Ian Mathers: Remember the Magic Numbers? Remember how they made weirdly effortless summery pop singles, only there was something slightly off-putting about them? Unsurprisingly for a band with the kind of glowing reputation Shack have, “Cup of Tea” manages to achieve the former with nary a hint of the latter, complete with the most satisfying lead guitar playing I've heard in the Singles Jukebox in many weeks. This sort of thing is practically a lost art, so it's more than a little soothing to hear it done right.
[8]

Martin Skidmore: I assume this is the same mob who've been trundling around, off and on, since the '80s, to no great interest. It does sound as if it's from Liverpool. Three parts James to one part Wah at his more sentimental, I guess, which for me is not a recipe for the success that has rightly eluded them for so long.
[1]

Edward Oculicz: Music to sway slowly from side to side to because you'd be too lethargic to sing along. I think I like the spectacularly lazy break after the chorus more than anything else here. Not as good as an actual cup of tea, but more than adequate.
[5]


Young Dro ft. T.I. - Shoulder Lean
[4.83]

Rodney J. Greene: Young Dro clumsily stumbles his way through a stock post-crunk beat. Unfortunately, T.I. doesn't recognize a sinking ship, neglecting to take over the captain's wheel when duty necessitates, instead confining himself to the shrill chorus.
[3]

Martin Skidmore: Dirty South rapping of a high quality kind. It's a very laid-back number, surprisingly relaxed almost to the point of sloppiness in beats and flow, but stopping short of that, and just retaining an easy sway that works pretty well (and it sounds like a dance within even this old man's abilities). I don't think it's up to the standard of T.I.'s last couple, but it's still fine stuff.
[7]

Jonathan Bradley: While it is perfectly understandable that T.I. would be willing to use his connections to garner interest in his less talented friends, what is more confusing is the tracks he has them pushing. A frothy snap banger and a laffy-taffy style dance hardly portend enduring success for Joc or Dro; compared to the solid production Jay-Z, for instance, arranges for the similarly unexceptional Memphis Bleek, T.I.'s affiliates are hardly being afforded genuine opportunities to compensate for their meagre natural ability.
[5]

Hillary Brown: Sometimes the paring down of hip-hop to an electronic repeating line, a percussive element that barely intrudes, and vocals that repeat the same rhythmic pattern throughout results in something that is interesting. Sometimes, as seems to be the case with a lot of “Young” dudes who like to talk about leaning on this and that, it simply serves as wallpaper.
[4]


Franz Ferdinand - Eleanor, Put Your Boots On
[5.00]

Joseph McCombs: In its original form, “Eleanor, Put Your Boots On” was the best Paul McCartney song since at least 1982 (if only his second-best “Eleanor” song). This modification, while not appalling, is exceedingly disappointing, Alex Kapranos exchanging his very real emotions for a delivery that merely tries to dance with the beat. The feeling’s lost, even as the melody remains. (I do like how he says “Brew-klyn,” though.)
[5]

Martin Skidmore: This sounds like a very lame attempt at a sequel to Eleanor Rigby, and I can't think of any levels on which that isn't a mistake. Perhaps they have no such intentions, but aspects of the style are so like that predecessor. There are moments when it sounds as if it's reaching towards some sort of punchy pop-rock chorus that wouldn't make it just a tepid waste of time, but it never gets there.
[2]

Mike Atkinson: If you were thinking that this understated, gently yearning ode to long-distance love was a strange choice of single from the second album, then be advised that Franz have seen fit to re-record it, in a fuller, brighter and beefier new arrangement which chimes right in with the current vogue for soft-rocking AOR/MOR Guilty Pleasures pop. While radio-friendliness is certainly gained, something of the original’s lilting, touching romanticism is also lost—none of which is helped by Kapranos’s somewhat mannered occasional departures from the core melody. Happily, the song itself is just about strong enough to withstand being buggered about with.
[8]

Adem Ali: It’s a bit folky, it’s a bit dramatic, and it’s a bit early 90’s, isn’t it? Listening to this and I’m back in high school, in my room listening to the Empire Records Soundtrack. Not that this is a bad thing. You just need to remember that particular soundtrack was released in 1995. It’s now 2006. See what I mean?
[4]


James Dean Bradfield - That's No Way to Tell a Lie
[5.43]

Ian Mathers: The key distinction between this and the sturdier midtempo rock tracks on recent Manic Street Preachers albums seems to be those post-80's revival keyboard washes fancying up the background. Luckily for Bradfield (who still possesses the perfect voice for this sort of thing) those keyboard washes are totally awesome, and he's got a nice little song here that, if a slight bit undistinguished, boasts the kind of refrain that you can absolutely milk for a satisfying three minutes.
[8]

Edward Oculicz: The music here is great—hand-claps, a nifty riff and a widescreen chorus to die for—the guitar solo with the "sha la la" is also rather good. Unfortunately, Bradfield has written maybe one good melody this decade, and this plods basically every time he opens his mouth. Dull, but pleasant.
[5]

Joseph McCombs: So many elements show up here that I’m a sucker for—handclaps, whirring synths atop the refrain, sha-la-la’s—I should love this more than I do. I merely like it. Maybe I just need James to go further over the top with the arrangement, à la “So Why So Sad.”
[7]

Barry Schwartz: There’s something unavoidably likable about this song, even if there’s also something unavoidably awkward about it. All surface no feeling? Preacher without a pulpit?
[5]


Rogue Traders - Voodoo Child
[5.86]

John M. Cunningham: After the leeching of "My Sharona" on "Watching You," I'm guessing that using elements of old pop songs is the Traders' shtick. Here we've got the familiar opening riff of "Pump It Up" all filter-discofied, an occasional quote from the Moog novelty hit "Popcorn," and a title that once belonged to Jimi Hendrix. I've got no inherent problem with this approach—I was one of the few who gave a positive score to Black Eyed Peas' "Pump It," which borrowed "Miserlou" pretty much wholesale—but here it leaves me cold, since it all just seems so obvious and void of any clever recontextualizing. Probably works fine on the dance floor, especially when that pounding kick drum returns, but otherwise no thanks.
[3]

Hillary Brown: Here is an insight: the problem with “My Sharona” is that it actually was not bratty enough. That situation has been rectified. The riff seems even sharper than it was when paired with a vocal rhythm that steps along with rather than against it, and nonsense sounds darn good when it moves at an appropriate speed.
[6]

Adem Ali: We all know the story. Born-in-the-UK-but-Aussie guys James Ash & Stevie D ask Neighbours vixen Natalie Bassingthwaite to join their little electro-pop ensemble. Then, together, they create one of the most infectious singles of 2005 back home in Australia, and giving it just one listen, it’s not hard to see why. Clever pop, it’s a sound that moves the soles of your feet without you even realising… quite frankly, Elvis Costello has never sounded so good. And that Nat’s got one helluva surprising voice, hasn’t she?
[10]

Doug Robertson: Y’know, I could never work out whether I fancied Izzy in Neighbours or not. There always seemed to be something not quite right about her, and I’ve got the same problem here. All the right elements are there, it’s catchy enough and it’s not exactly a great stretch of the imagination to imagine dancing away to it like an inhibited loon, but yet there’s still something lacking. A bit like any episode of Neighbours not featuring Harold Bishop, really.
[6]


Tapes 'n' Tapes - Insistor
[5.86]

Edward Oculicz: Sort of a wiry, heat-struck indie polka, but otherwise defying clear categorization. One heck of a catchy, stuttering riff, and I find the low-whispered vocals very effective over the quick-stepping rhythm. The organ could have been mixed a little louder, where you can make it out it gives the chorus a delightfully woozy, off-balanced feel.
[8]

John M. Cunningham: Apparently this band is supposed to sound like the Pixies, if you trust blogs written by skinny white dudes in Brooklyn. Could be that the single's an anomaly, but what I'm hearing here (nervous vocals, spaghetti-western tremolo) is way more in line with the handful of other current indie-rock bands with crooning yelps and Old World accoutrements: bands like DeVotchKa, Beirut, and Man Man. Maybe a touch of that David Byrne virus that's been going around. But you can't convince me they don't do it well.
[6]

Doug Robertson: Rushing towards a climax like a pack of huskie dogs, desperate to get inside and out of the cold, this Clinic-esque slice of Americana impresses and infuriates in equal measure. It builds and builds, but always seems to shy away from a moment of genuine brilliance, instead favouring a return to what’s gone before and the reassuring safety that that offers. A missed opportunity.
[6]

Joseph McCombs: I’d never heard any Tapes ’n’ Tapes before, so this was kind of exciting. Do they always sound like Modest Mouse shifted 1,000 miles eastward? Lads are vigorous in their defense, but the climax doesn’t top off like it should. Furthermore, they should have scorpion bowls at the Hong Kong with me before they go ragging on Harvard Square.
[7]


Plan B - Mama (Loves a Crackhead)
[6.00]

Martin Skidmore: Rapping over strong acoustic strumming and other non-hip-hop instrumentation, with quite a lot of sub-R&B singing, which for me is the fatal flaw here. I like the rapper's flow (a firm hint of grime) and rhymes, but it feels like guest verses on a record that doesn't quite suit one, and the rest of the record is distinctly weak, too smooth and light for its lyric, which is about crack.
[6]

Jonathan Bradley: I am sure Plan B felt there was some aspect impressive enough about this to hang four minutes of music on. My best guess is that we're meant to be entertained solely by the apparent genius of his lecturing mother about associating with crack addicts. Whether this subject is deployed to be heartfelt, or real, or edgy or something else entirely, it is certainly delivered without charisma, lyrical deftness, or production worth considering twice. If Plan B was hoping the Hall and Oates interpolation could save the track, he’s going to be sorely disappointed.
[3]

Steve Mannion: You might feel that if Ben Drew could incorporate and execute the same mix of fascinating characterization, personal history, and cunning language here he’d have a song to rival even Marshall Mathers’ most seminal moments. As it turns out he comes very close at times which is certainly encouraging but despite another slick production and a neat (if hackneyed) Hall & Oates-based vocal hook, young Ben still seems caught in a trap between admirable earnestness and naiveté.
[6]

Mike Atkinson: An arrestingly accomplished tell-it-like-it-is depiction of a son’s concern, frustration and anger at his mother’s no-good waster of a boyfriend. The delivery is impeccable (the rat-a-tat staccato contrasting nicely with the summery vibe of the acoustic-driven backing), the emotion palpable (rising to a crescendo of perfectly aimed vitriol in the last verse), the situation entirely believable (you instinctively feels that he knows of what he speaks), and the inevitable Mike Skinner/Eminem comparisons fully justified (and in any case, both artists could use a couple of lessons in quality control).
[9]


Sean Paul ft. Keyshia Cole - When You Gonna (Give It Up to Me)
[6.33]

Hillary Brown: Sean Paul remains Sean Paul, even with addition of Keyshia Cole, who brings less to the party than she should (it’s BYOB and she showed up with Fresca). Promotes grinding, little else.
[6]

Martin Skidmore: This feels less hardcore dancehall, if you see what I mean, than his first hits. This doesn't necessarily do any harm, though I'm not sure the chorus has quite enough vitality to make up for losing the punch-the-air party impact of his first couple of big singles. It's still terrific and thoroughly enjoyable, of course.
[9]

Rodney J. Greene: I didn't care for either of Sean Paul's previous two singles initially, but both eventually worked their charms. I have a feeling this one may take a similar path to my heart. Paul's sense of melody is just enough to overcome the tame riddim. Keyshia Cole is tolerable for once, as she limits herself to what she is capable of singing, but her voice is still thinner than she imagines it to be.
[5]

Barry Schwartz: Sean Paul is like Lenny Kravitz: his songs are hits, people own his albums, he’s constantly on the radio, and yet there’s no fucking way on earth anyone could possibly be a really big fan. There isn’t a more insufferable song on the radio right now than this one. Keyshia Cole is above this.
[2]


TV on the Radio - Wolf Like Me
[7.17]

Edward Oculicz: Most of the elements of this sound like unlistenable rubbish, yet there is something compelling here. I think it's the scattery, pattering hailstones of the drums, which give the lyrics force and poetry they don't have on paper and give some body to the droning riff.
[7]

Steve Mannion: A reasonably impressive blast of noise emanates from this band’s music-making regions but who knows what they’re on about really? Sometimes life is just too short. I would suggest less wailing on the mic about alienation and more pulsating surrealism that’s close to their earlier work.
[6]

Jonathan Bradley: Managing to be big and excitable and yet twitchy and withdrawn all at the same time, “Wolf Like Me” bristles with some unstated menace. The drums rush along gripped tight to the edge of a brittle buzzing guitar, which rockets through some lonely abyss like a frenetic ghost train, little flashes of melody blinking like distant signal lights, flickering out before they can properly be focused on. A horn honks at harmonies and twitchy guitar swipes before the whole mess blows like it’s been blasted out into an abyss. Simultaneously terrifying and unreal, a dream that might not even be a dream, it rattles along relentlessly, too fast, unstoppable, disorienting, some wild-eyed monster not even alive or dead.
[10]

Joseph McCombs: I like that this is fuzzy on the bottom, and I don’t say that often. Daring to start the song with “Say, say my playmate” is pure ballsy genius. But the assertive voice is pure sex-as-weapon, the sound of someone who walks into a bar and just starts sucking faces, and I have an aversion/attraction to that kind of aggression. Consider it the older, knowing brother to the blissfully naïve Futureheads rendering of “Hounds of Love.” Canis lupus, or canine?
[7]


Jessica Simpson - A Public Affair
[7.20]

Adem Ali: Hey Jessica. Someone from Warner Music is on the phone. They’d really like it if you returned that riff you’ve blatantly stolen right out of Madonna’s “Holiday” and placed in your new single. Thanks.
[6]

Hillary Brown: The thing about plastic as a material is that it is durable, light, and often brightly colored. Most of us agree that Miss Simpson can sing, but she’s made her first really good song by not bothering to use those pipes much. That is, her touch is whisper-light and yet quite shiny at the same time, a bit of tinsel tumbling in the breeze. Durability could be debated, no doubt, but plastics remain a wise field to get into.
[8]

Barry Schwartz: This review takes place in real time: I’m at :46 and I glance upstairs and my mom is dancing up a storm like we’re at a Bat Mitzvah, and she’s like, “Who is this?! Finally some new Debbie Gibson?!” and I’m like, “I WISH!” Now, if my mom reflexively starts dancing to something like she’s Bernie in Weekend at Bernie’s 2 I don’t think that’s something to be ignored. Is that a timbale solo? This song is fantastic.
[9]

Martin Skidmore: The tune the instruments are playing is pinched totally from a few old classics, as is a large part of the arrangement (lots of Madonna's "Holiday", quite a lot of ABC, a touch of the Supremes). Jessica seems to be singing a different song over the top, sadly, and an inferior one with less bounce than the music expects. I still don't get anything much out of her voice either, which sounds just a fraction flat to me. Musically this is fine, pretty and fun (you can hardly go wrong with such great sources), but she doesn't bring enough on top to quite make it work. The 'insert your name here' gimmick may spin some more money out of it.
[6]


Sarah Nixey - Strangelove
[7.57]

Adem Ali: My first proper introduction to Sarah Nixey this track is, and what a way to get into her. This is avant-garde pop done with extreme class. Deep bassline, stellar synths and quite a climax toward the final chorus, surely this is the direction electro-pop has to take itself through for it to continue to thrive, isn’t it?
[9]

Mike Atkinson: In which Her Out Of Black Box Recorder, to put it bluntly, “does a Goldfrapp”. Flaunting a rather played-out set of stylistic tricks, it comes at least three years too late to make any sort of impact outside the usual circles, viz. art-fags over the age of 30 (the continuation of mid-1990s Billie Ray Martin by other means) and lovestruck str8 boyz with a yen for a bit of breathily purring Posh Totty (the continuation of mid-1960s Honor Blackman by other means). As I fall cheerfully into one of the above categories, I have no problem in giving it 7.
[7]

Doug Robertson: Hmm. Sarah Nixey was, of course, as ace as a fixed deck of cards during her time in Black Box Recorder, so it should follow that Sarah’s solo stuff is equally ace but, well, hmm. It starts off well, trademark bored vocals mixed with an electro backing which sends shivers down the spine and even a few “Hey! Hey!”’s thrown in for good measure, but by the time we get to the chorus that all seems to get thrown out of the window in favor of sounding entirely generic and it never seems to recover from crashing into this log in the middle of the road to perfection, and given that the last minute of the song consists of nothing more than the chorus being repeated over and over again you’re left with a hard to shake off feeling of disappointment. As the Black Box Recorder school of song might say, must try harder.
[6]

Steve Mannion: Nixey’s a little late to the electropop party but in this case it’s still quite the stylish statement and taken on its own terms, a strong and supple affair. With even Paul Morley somehow involved in the proceedings, this is a welcome deviation from the lusher and lazier Black Box Recorder templates—impure pop thrills for after hours.
[8]


Gnarls Barkley - Smiley Faces
[8.17]

Joseph McCombs: Soul shouters don’t hit on the 2 and the 4 nearly as often as they should, and this is the best one I’ve heard since the Dells’ “There Is.” Cee-Lo’s created a fascinating character all over this album with his paranoid ecclesiastic, and even though the bridge kinds of blows it (it’s undercooked and underthought), “Smiley” comes surprisingly close to matching “Crazy”’s grandeur.
[8]

Edward Oculicz: Danger Mouse's production is warm and interesting—the organ washes and wooshing noises over the chorus are great pop. The song itself isn't hugely interesting, but it's delivered with feeling. In effect, it's kind of the opposite of "Crazy" which was a great song, brilliantly sung over a plodding, lifeless beat.
[6]

Barry Schwartz: I got this hot new move I like to call “Back to the Future: Part IV,” so while “Crazy” may be infinitely better than “Smiley Faces,” “Smiley Faces” is infinitely more danceable. And that goes a long way when I’m trying to dance, which I pretty much always am.
[8]

Steve Mannion: Another fantastic delivery from Cee-Lo backed up in style by a great ‘Northern’ soul production and gospel tinges with Dangermouse also throwing a little bit more into the mix, clicking and clapping to the extent where this song turns out to be secretly better than “Crazy,” although of course the annals will not reflect this. Salvation is here.
[9]


By: Stylus Staff
Published on: 2006-07-18
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